MONTREAL (Mar. 12)
The Deschenes Commission’s report on Nazi war criminals in Canada, presented to the House of Commons by the government Thursday, recommended amending the Canadian Criminal Code to permit Canada to try suspected war criminals for crimes committed elsewhere.
It also urged that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Justice Department be given additional resources to track down suspects. But the report rejected the idea of setting up a special commission for that purpose, along the lines of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office Of Special Investigation (OSI).
In an immediate response to the report, Justice Minister Ray Hnatshyn said he would ask Parliament to amend the Criminal Code in accordance with the recommendations.
The report was praised by the League for Human Rights of B’nai B’rith Canada “for its stated intention to bring Nazi war criminals in Canada to Justice.”
FINDINGS OF THE COMMISSION
The report represents the findings of the Deschenes Commission, set up by the government at the end of 1985 under Quebec Superior Court Justice Jules Deschenes, to investigate Nazi war criminals living in Canada. It was submitted to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney last December 31 and was twice amended thereafter at the government’s request.
Only portions of the report were released by the government Thursday. It states that the Commission “found strong evidence against 20 people as Nazi war criminals living in Canada” and recommends the extradition of one of them to Hungary and further investigation of the others. The names of the suspects were not disclosed.
A total of 392 cases were investigated and no evidence of wrongdoing was found in less than half of them, according to reports. Of the remaining cases, 80 suspects have died and further inquiry is needed into nearly 100 others.
The government insisted that the Commission submit a confidential report containing the names of war crimes suspects which do not appear in the public report.
The Commission also recommended that Canada’s extradition laws be expanded, specifically its extradition treaty with Israel to cover crimes committed outside Israel and prior to ratification of the treaty in 1967.
POSSIBLE CHANGES IN DEPORTATION PROCEDURE
It is not certain whether the Deschenes recommendations to deport persons found guilty of war crimes will be accepted by the government. But studies are under way of possible changes in the deportation procedure that would make it easier to strip war criminals of their Canadian citizenship and deport them.
The Deschenes Commission was opposed from the outset by Eastern European communities in Canada. Many war criminals tracked down in recent years in both the U.S. and Canada were of Eastern European origin.
The Ukrainian Canadian Committee warned the government not to embark “on a witch hunt.” It claimed that the KGB fabricated documents to be used against East European emigres. There are some 600,000 Ukrainians in Canada.
STATEMENT BY B’NAI B’RITH CANADA
The problem of evidence from Soviet bloc sources was addressed in the statement released Thursday by B’nai B’rith Canada. “War criminals can only be brought to justice when sufficient, appropriate evidence is presented,” the statement said.
“In light of concerns raised by the Eastern European community regarding evidence situated in the Soviet Union and Eastern bloc countries, the Commission is to be commended for establishing regulations for the collection of such evidence. The government is correct to consider such evidence on a case-by-case basis when it is gathered in accordance with Canadian standards and when there are specific, credible and serious war crimes.”
The statement added: “The League for Human Rights appreciates the government’s thrust to strengthen ‘made in Canada’ solutions” by “amending the Criminal Code to give Canada jurisdiction to try in Canada war crimes or crimes against humanity committed abroad.”
Nevertheless, it urged the government “not to rule out the option of extradition when it would be an effective and responsible approach.”